Steve Tambellini on the Edmonton Oilers today and tomorrow

Steve Tambellini held a press conference late in the first day of NHL free agency, and had some revealing comments about the team and what might happen in the days ahead.

It was, I thought, a strong press conference on the heels of a pretty strong day or two for the organization. A few particulars stood out to me; I’m just going to quickly run through them.

I believe Ryan Smyth needs to remain an Oiler, and I’m happy that he made the decision to remain here with us. This is where he should be. We talked about a lot of different things of where he could play, open to playing top-six forward, open to playing bottom-six forward.

Tambellini’s comments on Smyth suggest to me that it was the player, rather than the team, that made the final move when it came down to making a decision. I may be reading too much into the phrasing, but the ‘Ryan made a decision’ line really makes me think that the team made an offer and Smyth dropped his demands to accept it. Either way, it would seem that Smyth’s position on the depth chart is somewhat fluid, and I’d argue that makes sense.

A lot of teams have extra bodies at this time of the year. The positive side of that is that it presents options for you to maybe make a deal.

This came in response to a question about the number of bodies the Oilers have been stockpiling. As noted earlier today, the Oilers have an excess of personnel both up front and on the back end, and a trade is the logical route to clearing some space.

A lot of it, [Khabibulin has] had such a good couple of months at a time there and then his health really kind of prohibited him from sustaining anything. I don’t know if that’s a result of maybe playing too many games in too many days, but we think we need a more balanced approach here and Devan’s going to see a lot of hockey.

If a general manager is hanging on to Nikolai Khabibulin, this is the most sensible explanation for the decision. Khabibulin started well, and if there’s a belief that injuries or fatigue knocked his play down, it’s easier to understand why the Oilers would feel comfortable using him as a backup next season. The problem is that even prior to Christmas in 2010-11, Khabibulin was wretched – that reads more like his early performance in 2011-12 was the aberration, rather than what he’d manage all the time if only he were healthy/rested.

We feel we need that element in our hockey club at this time.

I don’t want to speak for Ralph but I think if Darcy’s in the lineup he may see more minutes than what he did last year.

Both of the above comments refer to Darcy Hordichuk. The first one really jumped out at me, because the “at this time” suggests to at least some degree that Tambellini doesn’t necessarily view an enforcer as a permanent and necessary position on an NHL team. It’s always a little risky to read too much into the words of someone who at times struggles to get his point across, but it will be interesting to see if a Hordichuk-type is still on the roster when players get older or if the Oilers succeed in adding skilled size to the roster.

I don’t know if we can ever have too many top-six forwards. You look at the best teams in the game, teams that are winning Cups, you need a lot of talent, a lot of skill… I can’t say that we have too many.

The only possible answer to the ridiculous idea that the Oilers have too much talent up front. Like Tyler Dellow, I’ve always found the notion that top-six and bottom-six forwards are different species to be a little crazy. Teams collect good players; players who aren’t good enough for top-six minutes play bottom-six minutes.

They’re both very young players with regards to the NHL. They’re both going to be very good NHL players in the future… the worst thing that could have happened to Magnus was that he sat in the pressbox… There’s no sense of failure if you have to spend time in the American Hockey League. I think they’re both okay with that.

Anton Lander and Magnus Paaarvi are the two players referred to in the comment above, with Tambellini answering a question on whether the pair could start next season in the AHL. That’s definitely not a ‘no.’

Ralph feels that he and [Belanger] can find a way to get him back to where he’s been for most of his career. That was the most difficult year that he’s had as far as production… Ralph really believes that he can work with Eric and get him back to where he should be. He feels very positive about that.

Remember all those Eric Belanger trade rumours? Steve Tambellini’s comments above cast some cold water on them. The Oilers’ new head coach, perhaps unsurprisingly, sees a useful player in Belanger, and Tambellini was emphatic that on this particular point.

Tambellini also made brief comments on a few other items. He confirmed that the decision to qualify Omark was to keep his rights and protect him as an asset, and that he’s still actively looking to make a trade. He refused to comment on the Ales Hemsky trade rumours making the rounds today, except to say that he hadn’t heard them. Beyond that, he was also vaguely supportive of the possibility of trying Taylor Hall at centre, and a little more supportive of getting some of the skill players out on the penalty kill next season.

All things considered, while I may not agree on every point, it was a solid press conference. Tambellini did a good job of expressing his take on the team, and more often than not that take was entirely sensible. More importantly, the Oilers’ actions on the day were prudent, and the team is looking to do more in the days ahead.

This week by Jonathan Willis

  • Rocknrolla

    First Fist!

    Good take JW.

    Couple of things I noticed. If u watch the presser on, watch Tambo’s face when he discusses hall at center. Very excited about it. I think you can book it that they will try this next season. As well as some skill on the PK.

    Other thing I noticed which I didn’t see get much play was this morning at the 9am presser with Schultz, Justin mentioned how it was such a great presentation by Kevin, MacT, Hall, and Kreuger. Then he said it was nice to meet Tambo today!

    So along with Tambo not making the trip and the whole “I walked in and everyone was cheering when MacT got the call”, I think it is more proof that Klo and MacT are really running this ship, with Dithers at the front for media.

    Either way some solid moves these last two days, with Schultz at the top.

  • Still want to see them sign or trade for one power forward, preferably a right wing or a center and one more top 4 defencman.

    I am fine with Khaby as a backup as long as they are looking to give him 30 starts or less and no back to backs even if he plays really well in the first game.

    It will be exciting to see how Duby lookis with an NHL caliber D-corps in front of him.

    Been a great week to be an Oilers fan. Ok with the resigns today, but I am hoping for more action in the next few days.

  • Wax Man Riley

    So this offseason only makes sense if there’s a trade, correct? Were they not interested in anybody today, or are they already on Plan B? I’d just like to know a semblance of what the plan is (as I’ve been lulled into false hope before)…

  • Cervantes

    Great, another summer of moderate inaction and Tambo telling us how we’re going to be contenders this year?

    This is the 30th, 30th, 29th place club, and the only changes we’ve made have been adding two kids who haven’t played an NHL game in their life. I am supremely disappointed in this inaction. Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited for Little Schultz, and I’m sure Yak is going to be a beast… but seriously, wtf? Zenon Konokpa goes for 1.9mil, I’d take him over Belanger in a heartbeat. A good pile of decent to good defensemen go for anything from slightly overpaid contracts to a bucket of beans (seriously, someone looked at the deal and went “Yay, we finally get Nick Foligno!”?). Tootoo goes to the Wings for very little. Etc etc.

    I love this team, I’m not pooping on it, but I’m really not seeing much of a change from the team that broke our hearts the last few years. We’re counting on better years from key players, but trying not to count on injuries to older players. Hoping to put more minutes on the younger kids, but not getting the midage vets to help prop up those lines. Putting yet more faith in our 58 year old MVP to play 30 games or so.

    Tambo isn’t playing “what if”, and it’s gonna nail us. What if Dubs is our for the season? Khabi+Danis for 60 games? What if Nuge gets hurt, Sam “Slow Start” Gagner is going to run the show? What if the kids can’t handle their share of minutes and Horcoff gets hurt, who’s going to soak up the hard minutes at evens, Belanger? Who’s the defensively responsible one on a Hemmer-Gags-Yak line?

    If anything, the only thing I’m not worried about is D. Even if Whitney is hurt again and Schultz Jr can’t handle the NHL, we’ve still got good pieces to fill in. But there’s no confidence in goal, no room anywhere in the forwards corps for any of the kids in the A, no chance for Harski, who is the only possibility of a top-9 who can bang. Hell, the toughest guy in our top9 is Ryan Jones.

    So, in summation, Tambo is still putting frosting on a crap cake, he’s still done very, very little to make this team any better, and I have no confidence that he has the skill, let alone desire, to actually make a hockey trade and make this team better. He doesn’t deserve props or thumbs up for continuing to let a bad team be bad, he doesn’t deserve great adulation for getting a rookie kid to decide that he’d get the most minutes on this team, the only thing that he might have had anything to do with is getting The Mullet at 2.25, and frankly I suspect that Ryan just decided that it wasn’t worth the effort to go UFA and move again.

    I really hope that tmrw, when Suter/Parise make their decisions, that the market opens up and we make some 2-1 and 3-1 moves. But I also used to believe in Santa Clause.

  • Dipstick

    I think the approach is prudent. Signing free agents will very likely result in an over payment and for longer term than the Oil can afford. They have 10 players who will be coming off entry level contracts next summer. The best deals will likely be a trade with a club that needs to make cap and contact room to accommodate a new free agent signing. The team is not contending for the cup this year. They need their key players to improve and mature. Making a run at a playoff spot should be their goal and to waste big bucks on free agents seems to make little sense.

  • Dipstick

    I think it is time for the real fans to be a little more positive,there was no one today that would really have made any sense to sign,hopefully a trade can be made for one more d-man and one more depth player with grit.Besides that lets sit back and enjoy.I was a young man when the 80’s Oilers were so dominant and I took it for granted they would always be that way.It could be way worse, Calgary, Toronto and Montreal?

  • oilredemption

    cervantes relax

    Things are going the oils way and things are starting to fall into place and FA just started…

    Doan is on their list
    i’m betting Gragnani is too (depth offensive D-man)

    Not saying they are getting these guys but were not winning the stanley cup tomorrow were filling in our holes one piece at a time and thats just it… its gonna take time and a little luck for pieces to fit.

  • Well I was a little surprised about Schultz coming to the Oilers, to say the least! I did like what he said after sigining…….taht being he was not expecting this thing to get as much attention as it got, and that he is willling to earn his spot. Good to her the kid say that!

    Tamby will get praise from me for getting this done ( I guess I will heve to eat my words…..and do so happily. I’m not sure whose idea it was to get Wayne Gretzky and Paul Coffee to assist……….but that was sheer brilliance, and I did not see that coming.

    Still lot’s of work to be done but I am a little surprised that Ralph wants to get Belenger on track. What kind of pet project is that…….we need to deal with the trash and stop trying to recycle all the time.

  • It’s been a solid start to the off-season. We have stockpiled lots of talent and are well positioned to make some good trades. I would have liked to acquire Methot today but as long as management is aware that change is needed, then we have the assets to make some moves.

  • Wax Man Riley

    Hey Johnathan,

    Does Schultz’s full $3.75M count against the cap? Or is it only if he makes the bonuses?

    Thanks in advance if you know. I’ll keep looking.

  • Wax Man Riley

    If all the Oilers have accomplished come season opener is what they have done so far , i too will be disappointed . However , the UFA marketplace i find not a very good investment as most noticeble names are frequently overpaid for their services . The trade market generally is much deeper and more in tune with actual worth . I hope/believe that is the route we are now embarking on .

    So what might/should the Oilers be targetting ? Oilers will be “mum” on it probably until a deal/deals are done . I suspect someone like one of the Kanes , with Evander being a primary target perhaps ? More NHL youth might be our target over elderly . Perhaps even Nash ? Tavares would be intriguing . Looking like Oilers intend to stick with youth movement with only a few older veterans for next couple of years .

    To remain status quo with just Schultz and Yakupov is not enough for upcoming season i feel , and very doubtfull we will be competitive enough to make a playoff position .

  • Wax Man Riley

    good start drafting yakupov,then signing schultz followed up by smyth and hordi signings but now we are back to same old tambo.I am all for being smart in our moves but the rebuild has gone on long enough,we have hall,eberle,rnh,yakupov,shultz,shultz,petry,smid and dubnyk with klefbom and co coming soon.we need tambo to be very active and make a trade or two.our movable assets could be hemsky,pajarrvvi,omark(bag of pucks)ganger or some minor league assets(or first and second round picks next year).we need a drop your jaw pat tambo on the back kind of trade for all of us oil fans that have endured the last 5 years,and to put a bit of faith in tambo and co,going into this season set the way we are spells disaster once again!!!!!!!

  • Wax Man Riley

    I have to say that was one of Tambellini’s best press conference outings as he actually stated openly of more pinpointed Oiler items and agendas for a change.

    IMO, I see the Oilers working on trading Gagner, Hemsky, Potter, Eager, Peckham and even some prospectrs for one very good defenceman, one more tough power winger, and one other NHL goaltender.

    I also have a strong feeling that Georrge Laraque makes the team after a tryout.

    IMO, without involving Gager and Hemsky, without the team being now yet 2012-13 completed and…. without any new summer trades yet accomplished,…. the lines are starting to look more ahead to being like:


    Yakupov – RNH – RW (power forward type)
    LW (power forward type) – Hall – Eberle
    Smyth – Horcoff – Jones
    Petrell – Belanger – Hordichuk

    First type extra’s or call ups –

    VandeVelde, Pitlick, Hamilton, Lander, Hartikainen, etc.


    Smid – Petry
    Whitney – J. Schultz
    N. Schultz – Teubert/Sutton

    First type extra’s – Plante, Marancin



    I like the start of this so far, and if Hemsky and Gagner stay awhile more, it’s not yet bad to start the next season with too.

  • Rocknrolla

    Plllllllleeeeeeeaaaassssseee Tambellini, realize we need help in net and trade for Jonathan Bernier… That would solve exactly 1/2 our problems… Our other half is D problems, that are going to be resolved in 2 years max (Schultz, Petry, Klefbom, Marincin, Gernat, Musil)